City Council will discuss funding requests

Carbondale City Council members will continue to discuss fiscal year 2013 funding requests from community and economic development organizations during its regular meeting tonight at the Civic Center.

A new proposal from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and additional information requested by council members from Carbondale Main Street, Carbondale Community Arts and the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau will be the main topics of the meeting.

“We wanted more details from Main Street, the Chamber and CCA,”  said Councilman Lee Fronabarger.

At the Feb. 7 meeting, Mayor Joel Fritzler proposed shifting $120,000 from the the Carbondale  Convention and Tourism Bureau to other civic organizations that promote tourism in Carbondale.

Fritzler said he thought the other community groups deserved a chance to show how they can attract business to downtown Carbondale.

Councilman Lance Jack said council members want to be good stewards of the city’s money and while some suggestions from the last meeting were worth further consideration, he was concerned the council might act too rapidly.

“The wholesale redistribution of funds over such a short period of time doesn’t seem to be the best process,” Jack said.

Debbie Moore, executive director of the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau, said she was asked to submit additional paperwork that was basically the same information she’d already submitted, but in a different format.

“This year’s budget processes have been handled quite differently than ever before,” Moore said.

The bureau received more than $317,500 from the city last year. Moore said the proposed reduction would prevent her from targeting new tourism markets in the Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield and Quad City region during the next year, and would reduce the amount of money she could spend on marketing in Evansville, Ind., and Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.

Moore said Carbondale is a drive-in destination for many tourists and she focuses marketing campaigns in regions where people driving to Carbondale would most likely require an overnight stay. Revenue collected from the city’s lodging tax funds her programs and other city-wide tourism efforts, she said.

Moore said she is afraid if her budget is cut, hotel and motel room sales will decline and the amount of money the city receives from the lodging tax will decrease over the next couple of years.

The result would be an overall decline in the number of people visiting Carbondale and surrounding communities each year, she said.

Jack Whitlock, retired director of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Museum, said he is a strong supporter of the bureau.

He said the bureau provided excellent service to the Marine Corps League and Marine Corps League Auxiliary Department of Illinois when the organization planned its annual convention in Carbondale in May 2011.

Approximately 130 people attended the convention and memorial service at Woodlawn Cemetery. Moore’s staff arranged for the attendees to take a wine trail tour and helped book hotel rooms and a banquet facility, he said.

“We feel the CCTB has been so good for Carbondale,” Whitlock said.

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